While the hoax went down yesterday I still think Lee Camp’s Moment of Clarity is great and pertinent. Posted this yesterday on my own site.

My partner and I are getting set to mail in our taxes before the deadline approaches. We owe this year due to contract work I had earlier in 2010. So while we write a check to the United States Treasury for a few hundred bucks many Fortune 500 companies will pay far less than the two of us combined. Yes, a young couple legally married for less than a year and a few years removed from college will pay more in taxes than GE, Bank of America, CitiGroup, Boeing, and others don’t even have to fork over a Hamilton.

I could go for that so I should just incorporate myself and have some other companies in other countries. They would serve as a tax haven for my enormous personal profit of around the median income!

Speaking of GE – they were not required to pay any taxes this year as I mentioned, in fact they received a $3.2 billion tax benefit. This morning they announced they would return all of the tax benefit!

“We want the public to know that we’ve heard them, and that we know many Americans are going through tough times,” said GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. “GE will therefore give our 2010 tax refund back to the public and allow the public to decide how to spend it.”

Immelt acknowledged no wrongdoing. “All seven of our foreign tax havens are entirely legal,” Immelt noted. “But Americans have made it clear that they deplore laws that enable tax avoidance. While we owe it to our shareholders to use every legal loophole to maximize returns – we also owe something to the American people. We didn’t write the laws that let us legally avoid paying taxes. Congress did. But we benefit from those laws, and now we’d like to share those benefits. We are proud to be giving something back to America, and we are proud to set an example for all industry to follow.”

Over the coming weeks, GE will conduct a nationwide survey to determine how the company’s $3.2 billion returned refund is to be allocated. The survey will be conducted both online and offline, and will permit the public to weigh in on which of the recently-enacted budget cuts they would like to see reversed.

In tandem with the gift, the company is also announcing a host of new policies to restore public faith in the GE brand, including a commitment to keep American jobs in America, and to create one U.S. job for each new job created abroad. The ambitious plan will overhaul accounting systems to allow public transparency and phase out the use of tax havens in five years. “Given my recent appointment as President Obama’s Chairman of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, it is no longer appropriate for GE to engage in practices that, whether by fact or perception, are at odds with the greater good of the nation,” Immelt said.

Immelt outlined several concrete steps he would take to push for modernized tax policies that reflect the realities of the global economy. “I will personally ask President Obama to work with Congress to require country-by-country reporting by multi-national corporations of the sales made, profits earned and taxes paid in every jurisdiction where an entity operates. Instead of moving money via “transfer pricing,” corporations ought to pay taxes in the jurisdictions where profits are actually made. If Congress is able to establish standard industry-wide solutions, GE will close our tax haven operations abroad, including our subsidiaries in Bermuda, Singapore and Luxembourg.”

Except, that is not true. It was a great prank by the Yes Lab, highlighting the absurdity of a company pulling in $5 billion in profits in a single year. The $3.2 billion tax benefit could easily salvage critical programs that aid the poor and help the middle class. The same goes for other multi-national corporations raking in billions in profits.

The budget crisis being played out in D.C. is not solely one of spending too much. It is a revenue problem. It is a priorities problem. It is an abuse of power problem.

US Uncut released a statement playing along with the prank:

“This is a good first step,” said, US Uncut spokesman Carl Gibson. “But even if they return their full $3.2 billion 2010 tax benefit as they’re promising, they will still have paid $0 in US taxes since 2006, when they had profits of $26 billion. So while we welcome this gesture by GE, it is only a first step. GE should pay its share, and Congress needs to stop the budget cuts and close the tax loopholes that give the richest corporations a free ride.”

As Nicole Sandler points out in her post The Difference Between a Hoax and a Lie

As to the title of this post regarding the difference between a hoax and a lie… I’m dealing with my soon-to-be 12-year old daughter’s propensity for lying and trying to teach her the consequences. It’s a really hard-fought battle, and I’m not winning … yet.
What USUncut and The Yes Men did was a hoax. It was designed to fool people momentarily to make a point. And they did it. It was never intended to deceive on a permanent basis.
What Senator John Kyl did on the Senate floor in an official speech in his official capacity as a United States Senator was a bold-faced lie. He said:

“If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.”

It was not a joke. It was not a hoax. It was nothing but a complete and utter lie. And when his office was questioned about it, they responded with these exact words:

“His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

If we can’t trust officials elected to the highest posts in the land to speak “factual statements” when making speeches on the US Senate floor, what luck do you think I’ll have in teaching my daughter that it’s wrong to lie?

She is absolutely correct.

Until those problems are actually resolved we will accomplish nothing in the actual charade that is the United States political system. #IntendedToBeAFactualStatement

About the Author

Aaron Krager

Former seminarian, former campaign consultant, current writer. I write primarily for my own site and of course am on twitter. I am constantly riled up on social justice issues and equality. Hope you are too!

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